Where to start?

5 11 2006

This is what happens when you go away for a week – not that I’m complaining about vacation, it’s the return from vacation that’s the killer ;) :

tegalalang.JPGYou spend a relaxing week in the sun, enjoying fresh air and new cuisines, and the freedom of being officially “unplugged”. You return home feeling rested and ready to start a new week. You open your aggregator on Monday morning to find thousands of new posts to read. And of course, this happens to be the very same two weeks that the K12Online Conference is on, so not only are you behind in regular reading, but with all the exciting conference stuff too! Panic begins to set in. You spend every waking moment of the following week trying to read everything you missed, while, of course, catching up on your work at work. The weekend finally comes and you give up all hope of a social life in an effort to get back into the swing of things…

One problem that’s still in the forefront of my mind is the struggle to promote the constantly improving web 2.0 apps that I am enjoying discovering and using in my classroom. It’s good to know that I’m not alone in this struggle, though. I just read Jennifer’s post and it looks like she’s facing the same challenges. We know that this is the world we live in, it’s unavoidable, these skills have to be taught, and we have to do the teaching. As I responded to one of my colleagues who questioned the validity of teaching technology at all: I think the point is that we have to teach technology. This is the future. This is our world. We ignore technology and we are ignoring communication, literacy, and productivity. If we do not teach them how to be responsible with technology and how to use technology appropriately, where will they learn? Sure, they have fun with these tools at home, but these are the tools of the workforce and they need to learn how to harness these tools for work, not just play. The fact is technology is the future. We can’t ignore it and hope it will go away. We have to learn how to use it and how to teach the students to use it appropriately. And, as Will very accurately points out:

“Many of our kids are already doing this without us. Many of them have much more of a clue of what it means to learn using these tools than we do. Imagine if we could teach them to leverage their connections even more powerfully, if we could show them how powerful they are in our own learning. That we are not just engaged teachers but engaged learners. That we’re not afraid of what’s ahead because we know how to learn.”

But it’s frustrating to feel that we’re beating our heads against the wall. How can we get all teachers to see the validity of these new tools? For the most part, I think it is fear of the unknown, fear of students knowing more than they do, fear of not knowing what will happen once they “put themselves out there.” We all know that teachers have a tendency to love always being right and being in control. Why wouldn’t they fear losing that control? I started teaching as an IT specialist, but with a liberal arts degree, so I always knew that the kids would know more than me. There was never any hope of me being the “sage on the stage” or the holder of all knowledge for the class.

Since I never started with this feeling of control over the class it doesn’t scare me to lose it. Just this week I released the chaos with my middle school IT exploratory classes. I showed them the basics of a wiki and told them that they would record the class curriculum in our short 9 weeks together. They were so excited to start that the e-mails notifying me of student updates started pouring in at 3:05 (school ends at 3:00). I know that all teachers want their students to be motivated and excited about learning in the same way, but giving in to the chaos is a complete change of perspective, and that doesn’t happen overnight.

I think Brian, at Learning is Messy is right when he says:

“You can’t just show most people – you have to show them and explain it to them and then answer their questions and then show it to them again and then explain it to them again and then show them how this relates to things they already do – takes the place of this and makes it even better and does this and this and this!”

Teachers need to feel safe, they need to trust you as an individual before they will follow your advice. They need to see it working time and time again and they need to see “regular teachers” succeeding before they feel comfortable enough to start. As Wes says at The Speed of Creativity, we have clear need for

“teachers to be aware of blogs and use them, not just for their own news and idea consumption, but principally for their own publication of student work. Teachers need to have experiences using blogs themselves. Most will not start using them if they just hear about them, or see them used in a workshop. … Only through experiences with read/write web tools will larger numbers of teachers come to embrace and utilize them for instructional purposes.”

I know my colleagues are often interested in the things I’m doing, but I also know they are thinking to themselves, “oh she can do that because she’s a tech teacher, she already knows how to do everything.” I guess what I need to get across is that I don’t. I’m learning just like everyone else. Maybe I found out about a new tool first, or maybe I catch on quicker because I’m used to the technology, but everything is changing daily, how can any one person know everything? It’s a mind-set more than a skill-set. We just have to want to try and learn, to be open to new challenges, and open to the possibilities of both success and failure.


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One response to “Where to start?”

    5 11 2006
      Graham Wegner (17:53:56) :     

    So, did you get to view my presentation? If you did, you would know that you and anyone participating in the K-12 Conference is as much an expert in this area as anyone! Another thing I hadn’t considered was brought up to me one evening on Skype chat by another Australian blogger Judy O’Connell who pointed out that even at one of her most successful workshops on using del.icio.us, an experienced teacher walked away saying that she hadn’t understood a word. As Judy said, “No-one likes to feel stupid.” I think that is one of our challenges (and by our, I mean anyone who sees the value in web based technologies) and that is working out how to pitch the message so that where people are at now isn’t devalued. I think that’s what Clarence Fisher’s Global Literacy got so right – technology scares a lot of people but no-one can deny the need for educators to be on top on literacy. The starting point could be then to define what literacy is in this age with our colleagues…. what do you think?

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